The Flaws and Shortcomings of Ron Paul
After looking at his positions and statements, the most remarkable thing is that if it weren’t for his loud fanbase of self-proclaimed libertarians you wouldn’t really think this is the platform of a libertarian. He’s loudly trumpeting his plan to impose criminal penalties on women who terminate their pregnancies and he makes it clear that his interest in freedom doesn’t extend to the freedom of anyone unfortunate enough to have been born in a foreign country. His campaign slogan of “RESTORE AMERICA NOW” is strongly suggestive of conservative impulses and nostalgia for the much-less-free America John Boehner grew up in. The mainstay of his economic thinking is the ridiculous proposition that “[t]here is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the United States today than the out-of-control, secretive Federal Reserve.” Not only is Paul’s goldbuggery nutty on the merits, like his affection for forced pregnancy and severe restrictions on human freedom of movement it’s difficult to see what it has to do with freedom. The freedom of the government to set a fixed dollar price of gold? America’s current monetary policy—a fiat currency that’s freely exchangeable for other currencies and commodities—is the free market position.
Paul’s views, in short, seem much closer to the isolationist nationalism of Pat Buchanan (complete with some good points about foreign policy) than to the libertarianism of Milton Friedman.
This is all true enough (though I hate the term isolationist and I’m not sure we should read so much into campaign slogans) which is why even though I rather like watching Paul in a debate, making everyone from the hosts to his rival GOPers squirm, I have decidedly mixed feelings about him as a potential candidate. He’s very much a paleolibertarian, with paleoconservative leanings similar to Pat Buchanan. This is no cause to ignore him – after all, he’s saying important things about a number of issues and he’s doing it with consistency which is more than you can say for say for our friend Mitt Romney.
My attraction to Paul is on two issues and two issues only: war and the war on drugs. Those are big issues for me. I’m constantly wrestling with how important they are in relation to these other issues that Matt lists. For instance, I don’t see us returning to the Gold Standard under a Paul presidency. But he could certainly make life harder for women who value reproductive freedom. And immigration is simply a net good for the country. Paul is too nativist by half. I think he understands the value of immigration, but he has no real reform proposals to make legal immigration (which he approves of) more viable. His reform proposals include “End the welfare state”. Well okay, while we wait for that to happen we apparently have to “secure our borders”. And what will it take to do that I wonder?
Not that any of the GOP candidates are better. Jon Huntsman is an attractive Republican (if he would just be himself!) but no better on any particular issue than Barack Obama. Besides, Huntsman is less likely to win than Ron Paul. Gary Johnson, well, he’s even less likely than Huntsman.
Besides, do any of the GOP candidates represent a Friedman-esque set of policy ideas?
Not really. Well, no, actually not at all. If the Republican party spent more time reading Friedman and less time pandering to the Tea Party and the news cameras we’d have a much better Republican party. Then again, I think the Democrats would be better off reading more Friedman also, but that’s because I’m an evil neoliberal.
Republicans should also probably spend more time listening to people like Greg Mankiw and Scott Sumner, but I guess the wisdom of smart economists is just not red enough meat when you could be talking about the unconstitutionality of Social Security or pretend to read Ludwig von Mises on the beach.